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Saturday 3 June 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland
# Leaving Cert
Major revamp to Leaving Cert planned as fifth year students to sit some exams starting in 2024
There will also be two new subjects introduced: Drama, Film and Theatre Studies and Climate Action and Sustainable Development.

MAJOR REFORMS TO the Leaving Certificate are set to be brought in beginning in 2023, with Education Minister Norma Foley announcing that students entering Senior Cycle will now sit some exams in their fifth year.

According to the Department of Education, there will be changes to the final assessment procedure that will introduce ‘teacher-based’ assessment components while Leaving Cert exams will be given less weight than they currently have.

Under the plans, traditional Leaving Cert exams will be worth 60% of students final results, with the remaining 40% being made up of ‘teacher-based’ assessments.

As well as this, two exams – English Paper 1 and Irish Paper 1 – will be sat at the end of fifth year starting in 2023.

“The idea here is that students will no longer have to face 100% of their of their exam on one single day in the month of June,” said Foley, speaking to reporters this afternoon.

It comes as new curricula for subjects across senior cycle are set to be updated, including two new subjects to be introduced in 2024 - Drama, Film and Theatre Studies and Climate Action and Sustainable Development.

The first updated subjects are set to be introduced in 2024, with students who enter fifth year studying the updated curriculum. The first subjects set to be updated are the optional subjects Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Business.

Foley has asked that all subjects be updated with assessment components alongside the traditional Leaving Cert exams.

All future oral exams and music practicals will now take place on the first week of Easter break, according to Foley.

There is an “appetite” for change to the Leaving Cert cycle, which was forced to change due to the Covid-19 pandemic, said Foley.

She added that the way students are assessed needed to change and that work needed to be done to reduce stress for students.

“It will reduce the pressure on students that comes from final assessments based primarily on examinations. We will move to a model that uses other forms of assessment, over a less concentrated time period, in line with international best practice,” Foley said.

However, Foley did say that examinations “have their strengths” and that they are trusted by students, teachers, parents and the wider public.

“They enable us to access a considerable range of student learning in a manageable way that it’s trusted by students, teachers, parents, and the general public,” Foley said.

“At the same time, we know that examinations are not capable of measuring all the competencies that we want young people to develop.”

The Minister said that there will also be a change to the Transition Year format, encouraging greater access to Transition Year for all students.

When asked about the ‘teacher-based’ assessments, Foley confirmed that it would be carried out by a student’s teacher, but that it would be moderated by the State Examinations Commission to avoid grade inflation.

“The 40% will be marked by teachers, but it will be externally moderated by the SEC.”

Assessment report

Alongside the announcement, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) published their findings about how the Leaving Cert needed to “evolve to meet the needs of our young people”.

The report recommended that there were more flexible pathways introduced to Senior Cycle for all students as well as seeking a further mix of subjects, including technical, creative and vocational options.

Commenting on the report, Professor Mary O’Sullivan, NCCA Chairperson said that the report highlighted “the need for greater flexibility”.

“The Senior Cycle Review has highlighted what works and what could be better in our current Senior Cycle. It has made us more aware of the need for greater flexibility, such as that shown across education in responding to the Covid-19 crisis,” said O’Sullivan.

“All students matter, their immediate needs matter and the diverse futures they aspire to beyond school matter.”


The announcement on Leaving Cert reform has broadly been welcomed, with Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire saying that the proposed changes were “long overdue”.

“We have all known for a long time that the Leaving Cert is in dire need of reform. It is not suited to the 21st century. It causes immense and disproportionate stress and anxiety,” said Ó Laoghaire.

However, he did call for greater clarity on the reforms that would be brought in, saying that some of the proposals were vague, in particular around the assessments outside of the traditional suite of exams.

“The announcement is still quite vague in some respects, and we look forward to more detail on what the assessments outside of the traditional exam will entail.

“We need more detail from the Minister on what teacher-assessed-but-externally-moderated continuous assessment will look like; it is important that the relationship between teacher and student – that is at the heart of the Irish school system – is preserved.”

Labour’s Education Spokesperson, Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin welcomed the new subjects being developed but said that the proposals needed to be thoroughly examined and called for an audit of the capacity secondary schools to deliver these changes.

“While it’s a welcome move to see new subjects considered on the topic of climate change and the arts, this must go hand in hand of the capacity of every school to deliver these subjects,” Ó’Ríordáin said.

“I am calling for an equality audit of secondary level schools to ensure that they can provide all subjects to the same level. “

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